Exciting NCLB and RttT News!

Recently, seemingly exciting and promising news has emerged in the world of P-12 education about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RttT). Essentially, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that NCLB waivers will be granted to States that agree to implement the Common Core Standards and privatization/charter-school model changes promoted by RttT.

The waiver move is the latest kowtow to the reality that American public schools cannot and will not meet the ridiculous goal of 100% proficiency in Reading and Math by 2014 as NCLB demands – at best, it’s chipping away with a butter knife at a piece of legislation we need to jackhammer into oblivion; at its worst it is a strong-arm maneuver aimed at a deepening of the corporate agenda for public education.

The cheating scandals of Atlanta and those that have not yet been exposed are just the tip of the iceberg in the debacle that an overemphasis on standardized testing has produced in American public schools. It seems everyone can agree that something is terribly amiss but the few who are in a position to effect legislative change remain reluctant to publicly admit that we are headed down the wrong path with NCLB and RttT – by the by, the “growth model” schemes proposed as compromise measures in both will get us nowhere closer to achievement equity than the absolute proficiency models have for the past 10 years.

Even with waivers and the other roundabouts that are sure to come, the fact of the matter is that NCLB remains the law of the land and along with RttT, it is an egregious affront to The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Let's not get unfocused here, we still need to repeal NCLB and remove RttT.

Waivers are not Saviors

During the past 10 years of NCLB implementation, America’s urban communities have lost almost an entire generation of creative/critical thinkers and problem solvers. For too many economically disadvantaged students and students of color, the entire scope of their elementary, middle, and high school experience has been test preparation, scripted programs, and an emphasis on compliance. The outcomes of these disastrous corporate educational policies are just now beginning to manifest in our higher education institutions and society at large.

Any sort of waivers granted to states will not change the real drudgery of teaching and learning in urban schools that NCLB implementation has created; they will not change the demoralization and dehumanization of students and teachers that continues to occur on a daily basis. Unfortunately, new administrators and teachers have been raised up in a climate that promotes and celebrates McEducation and given the high attrition rates for many educators it is all they have ever known.

Understanding the Political Landscape

For a moment, let’s pretend that party lines still mean something. The 111th Congress had great potential to address No Child Left Behind head on. The fairly young (average age 58.2) Democrat dominated Congress  was comprised of a record number of women (95),  African Americans (41), Hispanics/Latinos (31), Asians/Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders (11), and American Indians /Native Americans (1) – its predominant religious affiliation was Protestant with a strong representation from the Roman Catholic denomination.

In 2009 I warned, “Such a composition may seem to bode well on the surface for restoring American education, but what is unknown is how many members of the 111th Congress have already pledged their allegiance to sell American public schools down the river to corporate and military interests that are deeply entrenched in the political mechanisms on Capitol Hill and have been steadily working towards the goal of privatization since the 1980s.” (Lee, 2009, “The Human Fallout: Educators' Perspectives about No Child Left Behind Implementation in Urban Schools,” p. 284).

The fact of the matter is that the 111th Congress had the opportunity to make a positive change and rollback or repeal NCLB, an educational policy gone completely wild - and they failed. Instead, they did absolutely nothing and left NCLB in legislative limbo; instead, they were more concerned with not rocking the boat and maintaining their positions in the corporate pantheon that calls itself our representative Congress.

A Word of Caution

Too many are rallying against NCLB and RttT along party lines instead of seeing the big picture.  While it’s easy to unite and rally against a “bad guy” – a harder task is to understand that the struggle is not against a personality or even the illusory “party lines” that too many hold too dear.

Unlike some of the recent counter-rhetoric, the struggle to save our public schools is not against “Obama’s Education Plan” any more than it was against “Bush’s Education Plan” – this struggle is against a longstanding conglomerate of corporate interests that supersede and outlast presidential appointments and political parties -- deeply entrenched baobabs that threaten to implode our very existence.

Sure, the education summits held by George H.W. Bush set up the playlist for the reforms to come; yes, Clinton primed the dance floor with Goals 2000 and George W. Bush was the dancing fool that announced No Child Left Behind; and now Obama did in fact pop lock Race to the Top in your face to the States. But, it’s all in the family and each of these actions are but tiny brushstrokes in the big picture.

The architects of our current state of P-12 educational policy transcend political party. These think tanks, lobbyists, and corporate/business associations have a staying power that outlives the presidential figureheads that serve as the mouthpieces who present their seedy machinations to the public.

The Time is Now

  • It’s time to stand up for our public schools in the struggle against corporate greed and privatization by resisting the establishment of charter schools and vouchers in our local communities.
  • It’s time to call our so-called representatives to task and demand that they represent the will of the people and not corporations.  
  •  It’s time to monitor and call organizations like the CCSSO, NGA, BRT, ALEC, and others to the floor and tell them to stop mucking around in urban educational policy.
  • It’s time to get involved with teacher and administrative training and preparation programs to build up a force of educators committed to public education, social justice, and an increased understanding of pedagogic sociology. 
  • It's time for local school boards to mount stronger resistance to federal and state mandates for local education practices; they are seeing firsthand the human fallout of these harmful laws.
  •  It’s time for parents, students, and communities to actively resist the overemphasis on standardized testing by opting out or refusing to participate and telling administrators and teachers that we won’t stand for school time being devoted to doing test prep.
  •  It’s time to vociferously call out the illegitimacy of the Common Core Standards which have been developed by special interest groups and corporations to represent their CORE and not the core of any community.
  • It’s time to Save our Schools.

P.S. I blog, twitter, and facebook infrequently. But, for those who have emailed me, my thoughts about the Save our Schools Conference, March, and Congress are found in the Comments field of the previous post. Please feel free to leave responses or questions about my posts directly in the comments fields and I will publicly respond to each one in due time.


  1. Anonymous9:24:00 AM

    Interesting thought provoking blog on the future of education and not just NCLB and RttT. Very well said.

    It appears that it took a while to get to where are today on the educational agenda for the country. Many of the vested groups especially educators either fell asleep or their voices were "droned" out by other powerful interests and lobbyist.

    It will take a while to right the mistakes made to the public school systems, unfortunately, the children (the future) of this great country are the worse for it.

    The voice of the enlightened parents need to be front line and center in these whole debate. We are yet to see a strong movement for that. Keep Blogging!!!

  2. Thank you for your comments.

    There are some legitimate parent groups emerging that are not privately funded fronts for corporate interests and agendas. Many of the front groups use the language of inclusion and sound attractive until they are investigated.

    But, keep an eye on groups like Parents Across America (http://parentsacrossamerica.org), the Bartleby Project (http://bartlebyproject.com/), and other movements led by concerned parents to opt out of standardized testing.